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Nation & World Briefs


Friday, July 13, 2018
Pence family’s gas stations cost taxpayers $20M

GARDEN CITY, Ind. — Vice President Mike Pence turns nostalgic when he talks about growing up in small-town Columbus, Indiana, where his father helped build a Midwestern empire of more than 200 gas stations that provided an upbringing on the “front row of the American dream.”

The collapse of Kiel Bros. Oil Co. in 2004 was widely publicized. Less known is that the state of Indiana — and, to a smaller extent, Kentucky and Illinois — are still on the hook for millions of dollars to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites across the three states, including underground tanks that leaked toxic chemicals into soil, streams and wells.

Indiana alone has spent at least $21 million on the cleanup thus far, or an average of about $500,000 per site, according an analysis of records by The Associated Press. And the work is nowhere near complete.

The federal government, meanwhile, plans to clean up a plume of cancer-causing solvent discovered beneath a former Kiel Bros. station that threatens drinking water near the Pence family’s hometown.

Scarlett Johansson quits trans drama after backlash

NEW YORK — Scarlett Johansson has pulled out of the film “Rub & Tug” after her plans to portray a transgender man prompted a backlash.

In a statement to Out.com on Friday, Johansson says she’s withdrawing from the project “in light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting.” Last week, Johansson said she would star as Pittsburgh 1970s and ‘80s prostitution ring leader Dante “Tex” Gill, who was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man.

When transgender actors and advocates questioned the casting, Johansson initially responded with a statement that criticism “can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps.” All are actors who won acclaim for playing transgender characters.

“Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive,” said Johansson, who added that she had “great admiration and love for the trans community.”

“While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film,” the actress added.

132 die in Pakistan violence ahead of Sharif return

LAHORE, Pakistan — The deadliest attacks in Pakistan’s troubled election campaign killed at least 132 people, including a candidate, on Friday just before the arrest of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his return to the country.

In the southwestern province of Baluchistan, a suicide bomber killed 128 people, including a politician running for a provincial legislature. Four others died in a strike in Pakistan’s northwest, spreading panic in the country.

The attacks came hours before Sharif returned from London along with his daughter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges, anti-corruption officials said. Maryam Sharif faces seven years in jail.

He was taken into custody to serve his sentence however he is expected to appeal and seek bail. It wasn’t clear when his appeal would be filed but he has until Monday.

In the southern town of Mastung, candidate Siraj Raisani and 127 others died when a suicide bomber blew himself up amid scores of supporters who had gathered at a rally.

UK police confirm source of Novichok poisoning

LONDON — British detectives investigating the poisoning of two people by the nerve agent Novichok in southwestern England said Friday that a small bottle found in the home of one of the victims tested positive for the deadly substance.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45, were sickened on June 30 in a town not far from Salisbury, where British authorities say a Russian ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in March. Sturgess died in a hospital on Sunday. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, initially was in critical condition, but has regained consciousness.

The Metropolitan Police said the small bottle was found during searches of Rowley’s house Wednesday and scientists confirmed the substance in the bottle was Novichok. Police have interviewed Rowley in recent days since he recovered consciousness.

Police are still looking into where the bottle came from and how it came to be in Rowley’s house. Further tests will be carried out to establish whether it is from the same batch that was used to poison Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March.

From Associated Press